The deal has upwards of $10.5 million in guaranteed cash (The $4.75 million base in 2014 reportedly becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of that league year.)
Kelly knew he wasn’t buying the services of a “yes” man or a choir boy with that money. He was getting an edgy, hot-tempered corner that would essentially serve as the anti-Nnamdi (even if Williams said he modeled himself after the Raiders version of Asomugha at his introductory press conference). The team needed players in this secondary that wanted to hit people; they needed to extract the soft and fill in the holes with concrete.
The scene that Williams has been dropped into is foreign to him. He was part of a Ravens defense that was bubbling over with swagger and ferocity. A bully-your-opponent-into-submission mentality. Anyone who has watched the Pittsburgh-Baltimore slugfests over the past few seasons knows exactly what type of environment Williams is coming from. Now he is in Philadelphia, and here comes one of his old rivals — the Patriots — riding into town and (allegedly) talking trash and taking cheap shots. And his coach disciplines him for trying to defend the team’s turf?
“I’m just used to a certain way of life, a certain way on the field,” said Williams. “It’s just different. It’s not necessarily a good different or a bad different, it’s just a different situation. Those guys I play with, whether it be on offense, defense or special teams, those are my brothers. Every time I strap up, that’s my family. When I see guys getting blocked in the back in practice, when we get told not to retaliate, be the bigger person, it’s hard because I come from a different background. Me just relaxing and being cool and letting those people do what they do to me and me being a doormat, that’s something I’m not used to.”
Williams wants the freedom to punch the Patriots (or whomever) in the mouth if there is a whiff of disrespect in the air. Kelly wants his players to show restrain. This seemingly puts coach and player at odds.
But only in respect to playing within the rules. Williams has had some self-control issues in the past, from shoving a referee during the Super Bowl to getting into it with DeSean Jackson last September. Kelly is dead-set against that kind of behavior. Didn’t tolerate it at Oregon. Doesn’t want it here. Beyond that, chances are Kelly likes how Williams is wired and agrees with his take on the state of the ‘D.’
It is true that no team has reason to fear this defense. If any team “needs the nasty” it’s this one. The head coach knows it. That’s why he brought in players with a more physical element to their game (Williams, Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher, Kenny Phillips), and it’s part of the reason why he has called on Brian Dawkins early on in his tenure.
“The spirit Brian Dawkins played with is what the Philadelphia Eagles are all about,” said Kelly at an event back in January. “I’m excited to have him as part of the program, and I’m going to lean on him a lot to tell our young guys exactly how the game is supposed to be played.”
We know that Dawkins has been communicating with Nate Allen. And he’s been delivering a consistent message in his talks with Williams.
“I feel like we need to establish a tenacity, a hard-nosed defense, something that is to be feared when it comes out there each and every week,”
said Williams. “I think Brian Dawkins alluded to it a couple times when I spoke to him, he’s talking about, ‘Bring that fear back here.’ ”
If memory serves, Dawkins rarely got in dust-ups after the whistle. He didn’t necessarily “throw the first punch,” as Williams and his Ravens teammates did, but he commanded enough respect around the league that the opponent knew not to raise his hands to begin with. And it was wise to show the proper courtesies when visiting South Philadelphia, or risk leaving here a changed man. That was the Eagles’ identity when Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter roamed the middle. The same healthy fear existed when Buddy and Reggie and Jerome and Seth were in town.
Kelly is trying to chase down that legacy, not run from it.
“We definitely need somebody to instill that toughness, that feared Eagles way that B-Dawk and I have alluded to in several conversations,” said Williams. “We’ve got to bring that fear back.”
If Williams happens to be the man to lead that charge, Kelly will tolerate his corner’s dissenting opinions and less-than-polished behavior. After all, who has ever heard of a gentleman enforcer?
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